Probate is a legal process carried out to ensure that the assets of a deceased person are distributed properly. Whether or not you have created a will, your assets will likely go through some level of probate after you pass away. The process can be very simple and straightforward or it can be lengthy and expensive if the will is contested or, in the case of no will, beneficiaries are contested.
The probate process is not meant to be legal red tape; it’s there to protect your beneficiaries and make sure your wishes are carried out the way you wanted.
In Colorado, there are 3 ways probate can be handled:
- Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property (for estates less than $64,000 with no real property): a successor to the Decedent can use this Affidavit to collect assets from the institution or person in possession of the assets. The assets are distributed by the specified person according to the will or intestacy (without a will) laws. Those collecting assets must swear they are entitled to the assets. Courts are not typically involved.
- Informal probate (uncontested estates): the Court informally appoints the person or entity named in the Decedent’s will to serve as personal representative of the Estate. If the Decedent did not have a will, the Court will appoint an interested person to serve as personal representative of the Estate. The Personal Representative gathers the Decedent’s assets, distributes the assets and completes all the Decedent’s affairs, including paying off any creditors during the allowed timeframe. Formal notices about the Estate are sent to the heirs and beneficiaries and are also publicly published.
- Formal probate (contested estates, invalid/questionable wills): this process is the same as informal probate, but the personal representative is appointed and the will is admitted to probate after hearing and notice to the interested persons. In some cases, the personal representative often needs court approval for transactions. This is to ensure that disputes are settled regarding any aspect of the will or to satisfy creditor claims. The court may also need to supervise the entire process in messy cases.
The probate process is concluded when all of the deceased’s assets have been allocated, claims/bills paid and tax returns are completed and taxes paid. Informal and formal probates will remain open in the courts for at least 6 months.
A fully funded living trust does not go through probate which is why many people choose this option.
If you need more information about Colorado probate processes, contact the Denver estate administration lawyers at The Brown Law Firm LLC: (303) 339-3750. We can advise on the proper steps regarding probate in Colorado. You can also send us a message online to set up an appointment.